July 28, 2019 - Pastor Message01/19/2020
THE YEAR OF PRAYER PART 22: THE LORD’S PRAYER (cont.)
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:11-12).
We move on in our reflection on the Lord’s prayer to the next petition: “Give us this day our daily bread.” This petition has two levels of meaning. On one level, bread was a staple of the ancient Near Eastern diet, making it synonymous with basic sustenance. By calling us to ask the Father to give bread to us “this day,” Jesus calls us to go to our loving and provident Father with our immediate needs for earthly sustenance, trusting that he will give us all that we truly need in this life.
But there is also a deeper level at work. The word “daily” here is a rhetorical multiplier of “day,” not just in terms of frequency, but in terms of the kind of bread we need. Translated literally from the Greek, the language in which the New Testament was originally written, “daily” here means “super essential,” or going beyond the needs of our natural life to the needs of our supernatural life, the “true food” and “true drink” that is Jesus Christ, as he teaches in John 6:5458: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” By asking the Father to give us our “daily bread,” we are asking him to give us, not only our natural life, but the fullness of life that only Christ can bring.
This gift of God’s divine life that we share through our communion with Christ enables us to respond to the next petition: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We begin the Lord’s prayer by asking the Father to make us holy, like him. He manifests his holiness most powerfully in his great mercy, revealing his name as “God saves” by sending his Son to save us from our sins. To be like God, we too must be merciful by forgiving those who sin against us, dying to ourselves and rising to a new life of loving communion with God and neighbor.
Left to ourselves, we could never do this. That is why we must ask the Father to help us by giving us “our daily bread,” Jesus Christ, so that it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Only then will we be able to meet the Father’s command to forgive others: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14 15). It is not that the Father’s forgiveness is conditional, as if we could earn God’s mercy. It is that, by refusing to forgive others, we ourselves refuse to be forgiven. If we fail to forgive those who sin against us, it is because we do not have Christ within us, and if we do not have Christ within us, it is because we have rejected God’s mercy by rejecting his Son, who saves us. May our most merciful Father open our hearts everwider to receive our saving Lord, so that, transformed by Christ, we may share the Father’s endless mercy with others, even those who sin against us.
Fr. Marc Stockton